William was born in a family of relative poverty and relied primarily on farming to survive. According to his biography, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, his father had been a rough fighting man who changed after discovering the Christian God. A crippling famine forced Kamkwamba to drop out of school, and he was not able to return to school because his family was unable to afford the tuition fee. In a desperate attempt to retain his education, Kamkwamba began to frequently visit the library. It was at the local library where Kamkwamba discovered his true love for electronics. Before, he had once set up a small business repairing his village's radios, but his work with the radios had been cheap.
Kamkwamba, after some thought about a bicycle dynamo, his fondness for radios, and the wind levels at his home, decided to create a makeshift windmill. He experimented with a small model using a cheap dynamo and, using this experience, eventually made a functioning windmill that powered some electrical appliances in his family's house. Local farmers and journalists investigated the spinning device and Kamkwamba's fame in international news skyrocketed. A blog about his accomplishments was written on Hacktivate and Kamkwamba took part in the first event celebrating his particular type of ingenuity called Maker Faire Africa, in Ghana in August 2009.